The Historic Libraries go Dutch

The Pepys library and the Old Library’s rarest Dutch publications have been added to the Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands (STCN).  The STCN is a retrospective bibliography of items published in the Netherlands and in the Dutch language and will enable scholars to have a greater awareness of Magdalene’s Dutch collections.

The Dutch book trade was at its zenith in the 17th century, and there are nearly 450 items which were published in the Netherlands in the Pepys Library. Pepys had a special interest in the country due to Dutch naval exploits: the second Anglo-Dutch war of 1665-1667 was documented in Pepys’s diary.  Pepys also visited Delft in 1660 as part of the delegation to bring Charles II back from exile and complete the Restoration of the monarchy.

The vast majority of the Pepys Library’s books and ephemera published in the Netherlands are not in the Dutch language.  Books were a key export trade for the Netherlands during the 17th century, and many books in other languages such as Latin and French were published in key cities such as Amsterdam and Leiden.  However, the small number of Dutch language publications in the Pepys Library are rarities, and therefore were selected as items to be included in the STCN.  Two of the items are briefly described below:

‘Proeven van letteren’

Pepys Library, PL 1398(1). Van Dyck, C; Bus, J; Athias, J. Proeven van letteren. Amsterdam, c.1684.

Proeven van letteren’ is a broadsheet specimen of typefaces.  It displays the exquisite work of Christoffel Van Dyck, the letter cutter, Jan Bus, his type founder, and Rabbi Joseph Athias, the printer.  Van Dyck and Athias had worked together with great acclaim on an edition of the Old Testament printed in Hebrew in the early 1660s.  These specimen sheets would enable a printer to visualise how typefaces would display in different sizes and weights, and are now considered very attractive ephemeral items of printing.

‘Nader ordre…’

Pepys Library, PL 2061(2). Nader ordre, van de hoog mog. heeren Staten Generael… sGravenhaegh: J. Scheltus, 1672.

‘Nader ordre…’ is a state publication concerning the maintenance of good discipline on the Dutch fleet of ships.  As Secretary to the Admiralty under Charles II and James II, Pepys would have taken a professional interest in this publication.  However there was evidently a language barrier with the printed Dutch: Pepys had ‘Nader ordre…’ bound with a handwritten translation of the publication into French, a language with which he was much more familiar.

By Catherine Sutherland

Deputy Librarian, Pepys Library and Special Collections

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  1. Pingback: Cymric items in the Pepys Library – Magdalene College Libraries

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